DAVAO CITY — The Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) is undertaking preparations to gain investment priority status for domestic processing plants, which will allow miners to capture more value-added than the current practice of exporting ore.

PNIA Executive Director Charmaine Olea-Capili, speaking to media Friday, said the process is underway with stakeholders working on setting up a technical working group to finalize the Nickel Industry Road Map, a stepping stone in making processing plants eligible for priority status, with attendant incentives for parties establishing such facilities.

The TWG which will be led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), with participation from the business sector, non-government organizations, and universities, she said.

“We have spoken to (Trade) Undersecretary (for Competitiveness and Innovation) Rafaelita (M.) Aldaba, and she is very happy that the nickel industry is coming up with a road map because, she said, it will enable her to put the nickel industry… in the national investment priority plan,” Ms. Capili said.

The Philippines is the world’s second-biggest nickel producer with an output of 340,000 tons or ore in 2018, after Indonesia with 560,000 tons, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

In the first three quarters of 2019, nickel accounted for 48% of the country’s P99.58 billion metallic production value. These are mainly exported, with China as the main market.

“Despite the 1.24% slip in the average nickel price, nickel direct shipping ore with the aid of its other products (mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide and scandium oxalate) again took the spotlight accounting for 48% or P47.36 billion of the total value during the period,” MGB said in its third quarter mines report released Dec. 18, 2019.

The PNIA estimates that about two million jobs could be generated, mostly in Mindanao where the majority of the nickel mining operations are located, once plants that will process raw minerals into finished product are established.

“If you talk about regional economic growth, we are projecting right now… two million jobs. Imagine if you talk about velocity of money and how the ripple effect of coming up with jobs. You don’t just create jobs, you create businesses, create more global competitive advantage, and put the Philippines in the global sphere,” Ms. Capili said.

She said electric vehicles are one of the most promising potential customers for processed nickel.

In Mindanao, most of the nickel mines are in provinces within the Caraga Region, as well as the island province of Tawi-Tawi.

The PNIA members operating in these areas are: Agata Mining Ventures, Inc. in Agusan del Norte; Platinum Group Metals Corp. in Surigao de Norte; and CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., and Carascal Nickel Corp. in Surigao del Sur. — Maya M. Padillo